Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator:  John O'Brien 
For ages 6 to 8
Boyds Mills Press, 2013   ISBN: 978-1590789322

When Thomas Jefferson was still a very little boy he learned to read, and from that time onwards he read voraciously. It was said that he read all the books in his father’s library (forty-nine books in all) by the time he was six. He then went on to learn how to read Latin and then French.  When he was in college he read fifteen hours a day, and he started collecting books, building a library of his own. The books he collected were about a wide variety of subjects and they helped him learn skills that he wanted to have. They also helped him to learn “how to think.”

    Not surprisingly, when Tom built a house for himself and his family on a hill near Charlottesville in Virginia, he built a library as well, and he spent many hours arranging his books. Though Tom would have loved to stay at home and spend his days working on his land and reading, he knew that his young country needed him, and so he left his lovely home and family and went to represent his state at the Continental Congress. The knowledge that he had gathered from books, and his gift for language, was just what was needed and Tom was asked to write the Declaration of Independence.

   When his country needed a representative to go to Paris, Tom went, and he took books with him. They surely helped him pass the time during the long voyage across the Atlantic and when he got to the great city he spent his time not just working and visiting the sights. He also spent his time buying new books. In fact he bought books in many of the European cities that he visited, books that were written in languages he did know (seven in number) and some that were written in languages that “he wished to know.” In five years he bought two thousand books, which then had to be taken back to America.

   When he got home Tom went on to support America’s most famous library, the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Not surprisingly, while he was president, this library grew; it more than tripled in size.

   In this delightful picture book, Thomas Jefferson’s love affair with books is explored, and readers will come to appreciate how important books were in the life of one of America’s most famous people. Throughout the book, facts about Thomas Jefferson’s life, and quotes, can be found in little boxes (most of which look like open books) on the pages.

   At the back of the book, in an author’s note, readers will find more information about Thomas Jefferson and his life.